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Singapore Sling

Written on: Sunday October 12th, 2008

Leaving Bali on a red eye, I found myself alone and disoriented in the Singapore airport at 3:30am.  Although this city has a phenominal public transportation system, it doesn't run between 2:30am-5:30am.  So that meant grabbing a cab.  Fortunately I ran into another wayward traveler: Trent from Perth.  We decided to split the fare and share a room in the cheapest hotel that we could find.  It turned out that the hotel was located in Geylang, home of the notorious red light district.   Even at 5:00am as we approached the hotel, the streets were full with ladies of the evening, and a surprising number of potential customers.

After crashing for a few hours, I reserved a room at the New 7th Storey Hotel, a backpacker icon located in the much more desireable Bugis neighborhood.  Sadly, this cute lil' hotel is going to be taken over by the state and demolished next month.  I suppose I was lucky to arrive when I did!

The next several days were spent exploring and sweating.  Singapore is hot; it is also the most suffocatingly humid place I have ever been.  Just walking a block or two from the hotel results in significant perspiration.  Fortunately, the local train system (MRT), as well as every shop and restaurant you pass, has the air conditiong blasted! 

I very much enjoy walking through new cities, trying to get my bearings, and taking in all that the city has to offer.  And Singapore is a wonderful place to do this.  The city is extremely safe and clean and has a tropical garden feel on just about every street.  The shores of the river are lined with cafes and pubs, featuring a seemingly unlimited number of skyscapers as a back drop. But with the humidity so out of control, I opted to take the train more than I normally would.  Some places that I was able to explore include The Esplanade, Fort Canning Park, The National Museum of Singapore, Emily Hill, Sim Lim Square (and Tower), Little India, Clarke Quay, Chinatown and of course the ledgendary Raffles Hotel complex.  I even managed a few caches in town!  There are mostly micros in the area I am staying, but fortunately I was able to hunt down a cache large enough to drop several coins and travel bugs.  Caching is definitely a good way to explore a new town.

When the sun sets in Singapore, the nightlife begins.  The city has a very cosmopolitan and international feel.  It is expensive and there is significant over-indulgence. But, it was the nightlife that kept me here longer than anticipated.  There are many sleek neighborhoods with unlimited social establishments.  The first night I wandered into Emerald Hill, based upon a suggestion in the ever-trusted Lonely Planet guidebook.  Turned out to be a good choice, as I met up with a group of traders and bank managers playing darts.  After a bit of conversation I was invited to join in the games!  "Killer" was the new game that I was taught. I am now anxious to bring it back to the states, as it is a unique way to test your skills with the arrows.

The next evening I ventured off to Clarke Quay.  I was actually hoping to run into Trent, as he was playing guitar at one of the bars, but unfortunately I could not locate the place.  Instead I met a trio of locals who invited me along for a drink.  They were pretty fun, and I soon found myself in a new crowd of people, being treated as one of their own.  I must admit that the people of Singapore, both locals and expats, are quite friendly and open to meeting new people.  It is a welcome truth for the solo traveler.

Meeting my new friends out for dinner the next evening, I was taken to a local outdoor grill, where we dined upon chicken, beef and mutton satay, as well as grilled sting ray.  It was my first time eating the ray, and I can safely say that it will not be my last: quite tasty it was!  It may put a whole new thought process in my mind the next time I'm snorkeling with a speargun in hand. :)  My friends called it an early night, but I was anxious to explore a bit more.  I wandered into a jazz club, and found the house band playing american rock covers.  Too fun!  So I listened to pretty decent renditions of songs by The Eagles, Bon Jovi, Guns and Roses and the like.  A guest singer was brought up to sing a couple tunes.  Turns out he was the former singer of this band, who just WON Asian Idol!  The guy's a rock star now!  The band seemed intruiged by my being there and, following what seems to be "Singaproean Nice", came over after the show to talk for quite some time.  All in all, it was a pretty cool experience.

Last night, my last in Singapore, I was invited to the anniversary party of one of the hippest clubs in town: Attica.  They were celebrating by throwing a masquerade party.  So I bought a mask and set off to join in the fun.  This place was just crazy.  People were decked out to the hilt.  And, my friends being in the "in crowd" here, I was treated well: skipping the lines, avoiding the $40 cover, and given free access to the VIP section, where people just kept buying over-sized bottles and sharing with everybody there.  Oh, and I didn't mention...the drink prices here are absolutely ridiculous!  A drink and two shots?  $50 please.  A small pitcher of long island?  $75, sir.  I think the big bottles were fetching $350!  Granted, this is Singaporean dollars, which helps a bit, but dang...it could be dangerous to stay here for long. 

So now with my urban craziness stage behind me, I await an overnight train ride to Kuala Lumpur.  From there, depending upon the weather, I hope to switch from the urban jungle to the actual jungle, trekking and wildlife spotting deep in the Malay rainforest.  It will be a welcome change from concrete and construction.



From Marty on Oct 12th, 2008

Oh my! Are you sure you didn't wake up one morning in Rio?! Great mask, though it doesn't cover your mug nearly enough! =) Keep on truckin' bro!

From Steve on Oct 14th, 2008

Good to hear from you the other night, and good to see you're treating yourself to a little R&R!